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Polco News & Knowledge

What's the Best Way to Survey?

- NRC Q&A -

Surveying your community means that you're ready to incorporate opinion data into the decision-making process. There are several methods to choose from when conducting a survey, but what sets them apart? Which is the most effective method? National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) Director of Research Sonya Wytinck elaborates on types of surveying methods, their advantages and disadvantages.


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Online Surveys

Online surveys tend to be the least expensive option and boast advantages such as a quick turn-around of results. However, only conducting an online survey may limit the ability to sample all demographics in your population. Online-only surveys may exclude older adults who may be unfamiliar with newer technologies, or lower-income groups that do not have ready access to the Internet.

Phone Surveys

Phone surveys are a slightly more expensive method and statistically produce lower response rates. Surveys over the phone have a very quick turn-around of results. Political polling is most commonly conducted via phone so that the results and numbers can immediately be recorded. You would also need to ask screening questions before you get to the right person, as anyone in the household might answer a land line (i.e. someone above the age of 18, confirm the person lives in the area still, etc.). A large disadvantage in surveying over the phone is the effect of social pressures in answering questions directly to another person; you may not get a completely truthful answer

Mail Surveys

NRC most often recommends mailed surveys. Mail surveys offer the best sampling plan because they are address-based. Therefore, you can pull a random sample of the population within a specified location. A slower turn-around does come with mail surveys, as data collection could last 4-6 weeks before responses can be received, but we find this useful data is worth the extra time.

Survey Based on Your Community's Needs

Ultimately, the choice of method is up to you. When choosing the best way to survey your community, consider these questions: What is your timeline? What is your budget? Who is your audience? What is the statistical rigor you're going to need in the results? NRC's survey experts are happy assist you in the entire process, from start to finish!

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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